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Noken, Papuan Bag, a Symbol of Women’s Maturity

Writer Kistin Septiyani | Editor Ni Nyoman Wira Widyanti – Papua has a variety of cultures and handicrafts. One of the famous Papuan crafts is noken.

Noken is a kind of bag that is used as an accessory. The results of these handicrafts are commonly used by Dani women as accessories that are slung over the forehead and back of the head.

Reporting from Indonesian Traditional Jewelry by Husni and Siregar, Papuan noken is made of wood fibers woven to resemble a necklace.

Noken serves as a place to store and carry food ingredients, or as a baby carrier. “It functions to store and transport foodstuffs, baby carriers, it is also believed to be life and fertility,” wrote Husni and Siregar.

Types of Papuan Noken Raw Materials

The types of noken raw materials are quite diverse depending on the area where the craft is made. Different materials also make different shapes and colors.

“Each tribe in Papua is unique in making noken both from the raw materials, shapes and patterns they have,” wrote Ryan in a book entitled Plant Characteristics of Raw Materials and Natural Dyes Noken on the Damal Tribe Community.

Furthermore, Ryan revealed that the differences in these materials indicate the characteristics of each region of origin of noken.

Craftsmen who live around Raja Ampat make noken from coastal plants. Meanwhile in Wamena, craftsmen make noken made from wood fiber and orchids.

Differences in raw materials also make the shape of noken different for each region. Noken from coastal areas is square and has a stiff texture.

The color of the noken in the region also varies. Craftsmen also make variations in the shape of the noken lid.

Meanwhile, noken originating from the mountains has a pocket-like shape with a more flexible material texture such as cloth.

“For the tribes in Papua, noken symbolizes a neat, peaceful, and fertile life,” Ryan wrote.

Noken Bag

The Symbol of a Woman’s Maturity

Noken symbolizes the maturity of a Papuan woman. Making noken is a skill that must be possessed by Papuan women.

A woman is said to be an adult if she can make noken. Making this craft is one of the requirements for a woman to be married.

Reported from “Noken and Papua Women: Analysis of Gender and Ideology Discourse” by Marit, the noken tradition is an inseparable part of the daily life of the Papuan people.

According to Marit, noken has a philosophical meaning for the Papuan people. Noken is defined as a symbol of relations, kinship, identity, protection, economy, life, aesthetics and spontaneity.

This Papuan craft is one of the favorite souvenirs for tourists.


Marit, E. L. 2016. Noken dan Perempuan Papua: Analisis Wacana Gender dan Ideologi. Melanesia. 1(1). Hal: 33-42

Ryan, I. 2020. Karakteristik Tumbuhan Bahan Baku dan Pewarna Alami Noken pada Masyarakat Suku Damal. Yogyakarta: Deepublish

Husni, M. & T.R. Siregar. 2000. Perhiasan Tradisional Indonesia. Direktorat Permuseuman, Direktorat Jendral Kebudayaan, Departemen Pendidikan Nasional.

Source: Kompas

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This Blog has gone through many obstacles and attacks from violent Free West Papua separatist supporters and ultra nationalist Indonesian since 2007. However, it has remained throughout a time devouring thoughts of how to bring peace to Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia.

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